Antonia Paterson

Just a message to say thank you for arranging my year in China. My expectations were high, but I could not have predicted how rewarding I would find the whole experience.

The staff and students at JMYZ were extremely welcoming and showed a tremendous interest in English language and culture. I developed a deep admiration for colleagues and students: they were so hardworking and dedicated to making the most of every opportunity. I found this very inspiring and feel the shared experiences will leave a lasting impression on both sides.

I was aware that hospitality was important in Chinese culture, but the kindness and generosity I encountered was quite overwhelming. Nearly every weekend and holiday we received invitations to social events, often being welcomed into students' homes or being taken on trips with families.

Before leaving for China I had heard people in Guangdong eat anything that moves. I certainly discovered what this means in reality. Most of the food was delicious, although I don't think I will ever become partial to crocodile or chickens' feet! I am, however, already missing 'dim sum', both for the food and for the convivial atmosphere.

Not speaking the language, I felt that communication might be difficult. My concern was unfounded, as I realised the Chinese people are highly attentive, especially if there is a photo opportunity!

Of course, there were challenges. At times the pollution was rather depressing and Christmas away from home is never easy. These were, however, minor disadvantages compared to the benefits I received from my year.

Living within a different culture has enabled me to clarify my personal aims and ambitions. The response I received from staff and students was very encouraging and as the year progressed I found myself increasingly immersed in school life. I have, therefore, decided to pursue a career in TESOL. My next step will be to gain some formal qualifications and then return to China at a later date.

Thank you again for making this possible.